A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 20i The nurse from the office, a scraggy, middle-aged woman, came into the ward and inquired: •'Meresyev, Alexei, is he a walking patient?" L'Xo, a running one!" barked Struchkov. "I did not come here for a joke,"' observed the nurse sternly. "Meresyev, Alexei, senior lieutenant, wanted on the telephone." "A young lady?" asked Struchkov, livening up and winking at the irate nurse. "I did not see her marriage certificate/" hissed the nurse, sailing majestically out of the ward. Meresyev leapt up from his bed. Cheerfully tapping his walking-stick, he overtook the nurse and actually did run down the stairs. For about a month he had been expecting a reply from Olya and the thought had flashed through his mind: perhaps it is she? But that could not be. She could not travel from that place near Stalingrad to Moscow at a time like this! Besides, how could she have found him here in the hospital, since he had told her that he was serving in some rear administration, and not in Moscow itself, but in a suburb? But at that mo- ment Meresyev believed in miracles, and not noticing it himself, he ran, ran for the first time on his artificial feet, in a rolling gait, leaning on his stick only now and again, while his boots creaked: creak, creak, creak.... He picked up the receiver and he heard a pleasant, deep, but totally strange voice. He was asked whether he was Senior Lieutenant Alexei Petrovich Meresyev from ward forty-two. In a sharp and angry tone, as if there had been something offensive in that question, Meresyev barked: "Yes!" There was a moment's pause, and then the voice, now cold and strained, apologised for having troubled him and, evidently offended by the curt reply, went on to say with obvious effort: "This is Anna Gribova speaking, a friend of Lieuten- ant Gvozdev's. You don't know me." Meresyev grasped the receiver with both his hands and shouted into it, at the top of his voice: "Are you Anyuta? Anyuta? I know you perfectly well! Grisha told me about..,."